PTAs tend to do a lot of events. From carnivals and fun fairs to class parties to PTA programs like Reflections, PTAs know how to provide fun and engaging activities for families. And while this type of family engagement does a good job of getting families through the school doors, PTAs could do better at creating real family engagement that makes a big difference for children.
Research has shown that truly engaged families are critical to student success, providing the equivalent of an additional $1,000/student of spending. But to get that kind of result, families need to do more than just walk through the school doors and have a good time. They need to be engaged to support student learning outside the school walls.
Edutopia recently published an article on making the most of families’ time at school. While aimed at teachers and school administrators, the article provides some useful guidance for PTAs on creating events that build real family engagement. The family engagement that makes a difference is that which gets families in the classroom, participating in their child’s learning and activities that they do at school, and learning and understanding data about their child’s performance. Here are some key points from the article for PTAs:
- Work with your school administration to create events that tie into current learning objectives. Improving student achievement won’t come from families taking pictures of kids in costumes at a Halloween parade or Thanksgiving performance. When these events get families in the school, take advantage of that to get them into the classroom as well by including math games around the theme of the event. Focus on those key ideas that your school is trying to get all children to master, like reading fluently on grade level and understanding basic math facts.
- Make sure your events work with teachers’ schedules as well, especially if you are trying to include academic supports in your events with teachers’ help. Find out what other things are going on in teachers’ lives around the time you want to hold your event. Is it the same time that teachers are busy with end-of-semester assessments or preparing materials for parent-teacher conferences?
- Time your events to work for all of those involved. School day events won’t work for working parents, and evening events are often hard for teachers to attend. Late afternoon or early evening events may work for both teachers staying after school and families getting off of work. Consider feeding everyone as part of your event.
- Work with teachers to integrate an event’s theme into what the classes are doing. If you’re doing a circus themed event, having teachers integrate that theme into their lessons and showcasing that work during the event can build excitement among the children to get their families to come and see what they have been learning and doing.
With just a few tweaks and by working with your teachers and principal, PTAs can turn events into a fun time that supports families and student achievement, and that is how PTAs can create transformative family engagement.